Thursday, October 30, 2008

Annual Pumpkin Carving and "Fright Night"

Every year since the kids were little, Steve has carved the pumpkin with them. They have a tradition where the kids each draw several ideas for the eyes, nose and mouth and then submit their ideas to Steve. He mixes and matches the ideas to create one jack-o-lantern with creations from both Alexander and Sophia.

I helped out with some of the dirty work while the kids drew their creations.

The kids submitted their ideas to Steve who made a final decision as to which eyes (never matching eyes since one comes from Alexander and the other from Sophia), nose, and mouth would be used.

Then Steve began drawing out the face. So far, so good.

Perfect! The pumpkin was ready to carve!

This year the pumpkin was very thick and we forgot to bring it in from the cold so Steve had the ingenius idea of using Alexander's jigsaw to carve the pumpkin. It worked really well! This was the fastest pumpkin carving in our family's history.
Not a year goes by that we don't have the official "completed picture" and then the "goofy completed picture."
Finally, the jack-o-lantern found its new home outside on our front porch.
We had a perfect evening. Sophia named it "Fright Night". This year the kids are going over to a friend's house to trick or treat with a group of their friends. This will be the first year of not dressing up and trick or treating together as a family. So, we decided to celebrate an evening of Halloween fun together by combining the pumpkin carving tradition and adding on new fun . We started out by eating homemade chili while watching Monday's episode of Heroes, then we went to the Haunted Dungeon sponsored by our park district. This was our first haunted house experience as a family. We chose something not too scary, which turned out to be just right and then headed home for pumpkin carving. The whole evening was a delight.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

YIPEE!!!!! A Big Accomplishment For Today!

When I last saw my NST practitioner in August, she warned me that even though I am feeling better, I need to take it easy adding back anything physical. The last eight months of being off medication have taught me a lot about myself. I have learned that I really do have to trust my body. I have taken it easy and let others carry heavy things for me, I have slowly added back walking Izzy, I have let a lot of the house cleaning go and as much as I have hated it, I have not worked out since going off the meds. Oh, I have tried a few times, but my body just wasn't ready and I knew I had to trust it.

The last of the side effects of going off medications has been the swelling in my knees and weakened wrists. I can walk up and down stairs with ease now, but I haven't been able to get up after sitting on the ground. While I can now lift most everyday things like grocery bags and such, I haven't been able to hold my own body up for workouts. Well, today it happened!!!! I did my complete yoga tape - a little wobbly with the wrists but I sat crossed legged and was able to complete the whole tape! I can't tell you how proud I feel. I feel like my whole body is beaming with pride. I trusted my body to manage without medications, I trusted that the swelling in my body would reduce and I trusted that my strength would return. Thank you Body! You are amazing!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Does this happen to anyone else?

Last winter when I was out in the cold walking Izzy, I totally bundled up - scarf, face mask, gloves, layers of shirts and a coat, insulated shoes and 1-2 pairs of socks depending on the condition of my feet. Even with all of this, my feet, ears, nose and especially my hands got terribly cold. For my hands it was extreme. I got this feeling of panic that if I didn't get inside soon, something bad would happen. I have even had to run home before to get inside because the panic was so fierce. Once inside, I took off my gloves and my fingers were beet red and very painful as they warmed up. I have read it is associated with rheumatoid arthritis and circulation. Last year was the first year I experienced it but even this morning, I had a mild bout of it. I discussed it with the rheumatologist last winter and he of course had a medication for it. The side effects are drop in blood pressure, swelling, etc. No thanks! If you have experienced this, how do you deal with it without taking medications and without avoiding the outdoors?

Monday, October 27, 2008

Guitar Playing Dad

My husband Steve said to me the other night, “I feel more excited about playing guitar than I have in a long time.” Recently he dragged out his microphone and has been playing guitar and singing. It has been thrill for all of us!

Steve started playing guitar when he was 14 years old. He paid for his own lessons and bought all of his own equipment. When I met him, he was starting a music education degree. At that time, he was practicing four hours a day. We both completed our education degrees, but for Steve, he realized that although he loved playing guitar, he wasn’t cut out to be a public school teacher. So, he took some time off from college to work and play in a band until he returned to college to receive a degree in computer science.

Guitar has always been Steve’s passion. Time will go by and he will do absolutely nothing with it and then it will be all he can think of. He will take lessons, give lessons, play in a band or just sit in our family room playing for self enjoyment.

When Steve said, “I feel more excited about playing guitar than I have in a long time”, I replied back with, “This is exactly how it is for unschoolers.” As unschoolers or a term I have been using more often, “life learners”, our children may dive into something which consumes their every waking moment and then all of the sudden it appears they are finished with it. We may worry that they haven’t completed the class we paid for or we think “what a waste that all of that time was spent and now they have no more interest”. Or, we worry that if they don’t continue learning more about the subject, they will forget everything they have learned. However, just like Steve’s guitar playing, we need time to take breaks. Sometimes the breaks lead us to become stronger in our passions and sometimes we just realize that it wasn’t a passion, but something that helped us to our next path in life. Steve has never found that he lost anything he had learned due to taking breaks, but instead feels more intense each time. By not having any rules put upon him as to when or how to play guitar, he is able to use it as it works best for him.

As unschoolers we sometimes talk about how our children’s interests can lead them to many other important life skills. I can only imagine the other life skills that have created learning situations for Steve by playing guitar – public speaking, money management (guitar equipment is not cheap), reading music, organization, discipline, time management, and more.

What I love about allowing our children to be life learners rather than “forced” learners is that they tend to choose the path that was meant for them. They choose interests that are personal to them. This leads them to life skills that will be appropriate for the paths in life which they were meant to take rather than a path that was designed by others and doesn’t make sense to who they are.

Will Steve ever make guitar his profession? Well, in a perfect world, yes! For now, it provides him some extra money when he wants it, but mostly it keeps him grounded in who he is as a person when the rest of the work world sometimes tries to take that away!

Here's some of Steve's older stuff:
and more is soon to come here:

Friday, October 24, 2008

Gluten Free Banana Pancakes

The first year I was on a gluten/dairy free diet, I was also eliminating other foods to see how they affected my rheumatoid arthritis. I was very cautious not to let anything into my diet that was off limits, so I made almost everything I ate. The first year of being on an elimination diet was difficult because I was learning what I could and couldn't eat. I remember when a good friend sent me this recipe. I made them whenever I needed something sweet. At that time, I was totally avoiding sugar with the exception of small amounts of honey or maple sugar so these worked out perfectly.

It has been a while since I made them, but I am glad I did. They were perfect for this cool fall morning. Alexander and I worked on them together which made them even better!

Banana (Nut) Pancakes
1 1/2 cups rice flour (I used 1/4 tapioca starch, 1/2 cups rice flour and 3/4 cup quinoa flour)
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. xanthan gum
1 1/4 cups water
3 Tbsp. oil (I used coconut oil)
2 Tbsp. honey (I used 1 Tbsp of maple syrup)
2 egg yolks
2 bananas, mashed
1/2 cup chopped walnuts (I didn't add these)
2 egg whites, beaten 'til stiff peaks
Combine dry ingredients in one bowl, wet ingredients in another (except egg whites). Combine wet and dry ingredients and gently fold in egg whites.

Also, last weekend I searched for a cinnamon roll recipe and found this blog. I made a few adjustments to the recipe, but they were awesome! If you are gluten free and crave cinnamon rolls, you have got to try these!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Sometimes Being "Mom" is Hard

Sometimes being the mom is hard. When you are the mom, you absorb everything. When someone is sick, they want mom. When someone's schedule gets busy, so does yours. When a person in your family is going through personal changes, guess who goes through them too? That's right, Mom.

As the mom, we are given the gift of sharing a part in everything that happens to our family. We are the core. We keep everything going and everyone depends on us. This is a wonderful thing. It is nice to be this person and I wouldn't trade it for anything.

However, yesterday, I felt overwhelmed with life. Sophia was sick over the weekend and needed lots of attention, I made a Halloween costume for Alexander, I have been trying to keep the house cleaner on a regular basis and have been doing lots of baking, we have added a writing workshop/mother discussion day to our homeschool outings, classes start back tonight and we have been on a tight budget this week. Then, on Tuesday night, Izzy chewed both of my knitting needles and slobbered all over my almost finished dish towel. I think that was what topped it off. I haven't been able to knit in so long because my fingers were too stiff and it felt good to be doing it again and then it felt like it was torn from me.

So, I woke up cranky yesterday. The day got better, but then turned worse again by night. Looking back now, I see how easy it would have been to share with my family that I didn't want to do the dishes again or walk the dog again. Someone would have gladly done it to help me. I could have told them that I just wanted to lay in my bedroom by myself without listening to anyone's stories for a while and instead of holding anyone right then, I just needed to have a little space for a while and they would have understood, but instead I hurt some feelings. I feel really bad about that.

I know we all have bad days and luckily my family understands that too. Before going to bed, the kids and I did talk over the hurt feelings and I shared with them how I have felt overwhelmed the last week. It felt good to share this with them and for them to understand and offer up suggestions to help. They really are good kids - the best! Being the mom is the best, even on difficult days.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Medication Update

Since I went off of Methotrexate in February, I have noticed the hair at my scalp feels thick again! Once I started taking Methotrexate, I would have large amounts of hair show up in my hands when I showered or brushed my hair. That isn't happening anymore.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Warriors in Our Own Health

This weekend I read Jenny McCarthy's book Mother Warriors. In this easy to read book she shares the stories of mothers who are warriors for their autistic children. She explains how doctors told her and other parents that there was nothing they could do for autism. However, they refused to give up hope. They became the researchers, the scientists, the nutritionists, and more for their children. They refused to stop fighting until change occured.

I feel like all of us with a serious illness can learn from this book. We have to learn to rely on ourselves as the primary person in our healing process. We have to learn to ask questions about methods that don't seem to be working. These parents chose to go beyond what their trusted physicians told them and found that diet, supplements and other alternative treatments could make huge differences. We are each unique individuals and because of that, we each have our own reasons for experiencing an illness. It does take time to find what works best for our bodies, but our bodies are amazing things. They want to be well. We have to keep researching and listening to our body until we can find what will heal us. This book describes how there is always hope.

Even though the book wasn't about rheumatoid arthritis, I felt it was speaking to me. I have learned that there is always hope when I set my mind on healing. If you have a chance, I highly recommend Jenny McCarthy's book. I would love to hear your thoughts on her book.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

The Simplest Things, Weekly Edition

"I find relaxation, enjoyment, and healing in the simplest things in life. "
This week I thought I would focus on the simplest things at my job. I teach adult ESL (English as a Second Language) at a community college two evenings a week. This week was the last week in our quad and it is customary in our program to celebrate on the last evening of class.

~I don't know if it is because the spring and summer quads were so difficult for me physically that I enjoyed this quad so much, but I did. We used a new curriculum for the first time that my students and I both like a lot and rather than 30 students I had about 12 which made grading and getting to know my students personally, so much easier.

~My students brought homemade food for the party! We had Tinga and Picadillio on tostadas. I skipped the sour cream and cheese but enjoyed topping off the tostada with homemade spicy salsa and shredded lettuce.

~One student asked me if I liked soda since I was drinking my water. I said, "No, I don't drink soda." My student came back with, "All white people like soda. They even drink it for breakfast." Another student came over to show his agreement in this thought. It's funny the sterotypes others form about us, isn't it?

~We played games such as Chess, Pick up Sticks, Jenga and Uno. I was in the group playing
Uno - in Spanish! I don't speak Spanish but I was able to play Uno without any problem since I do know my colors and numbers. Best part is, I won!

~My students told me they "love" my class and I am "an excellent teacher". They asked if I would move up to the next level with them. I have done this is the past, but this was my first quad of teaching this level and I really want to use my materials again. However, it feels good to be appreciated.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Life Learner Fair

Yesterday our unschooling group participated in a Life Learner Fair. It was awesome. I am always blown away by the creativity and knowledge that children obtain in things that truly interest them. The variety of topics covered by the 20 presenters was great: renewable energy, otters, knitting, sound, movie scene, dinosaurs, etc. It was amazing.

Alexander's table was titled, "How Things Work". This is the kind of thing he lives for. He loves to understand how things work and processes it over and over in his head. For the fair, he focused on planes, guns/bullets, and locks. Unfortunately, we couldn't get an Internet connection and he wasn't able to show the videos he had on the laptop. A couple of moms mentioned to me their surprise in Alexander's gun interest. I didn't really know how to respond to this. Alexander is such a stable, loving and caring person and he is a thinker. He loves to think about how things work, to learn about weapons used in war, he enjoys figuring out strategies used, and he loves to skeet shoot with his dad. However, he is not a violent person by any means. I guess because I know him, I know that an interest in guns does not mean an interest in violence or war. Sometimes it makes me sad that people may think that way.

Sophia had a blast hanging out with her friends before, during and after the fair.
Since Sophia and I have been reading about Kit Kitteridge, an American Girl, she presented on The Great Depression and brought a copy of her newly published book, The Life of Allie Colts. My favorite thing about her display was the letter to Eleanor Roosevelt she wrote explaining how desperate her family was for blankets, clothes, etc. They had lost their home while their father was out of town looking for work and couldn't take much with them. I love the passion she has for writing.
To see more photos of the fair, please visit Wild Indigo Life Learners, a blog I share with other unschooling moms.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

41 Years Old!

Today I turned 41 years old. However, the party started Sunday when Sophia decided she could not wait any longer to give me my gift. She "just knew I would love it." So, Alexander quickly finished his gift and we had an early celebration.

Alexander and Sophia have always made birthday gifts for me. Somehow, someway they come up with these creative ideas for me and figure out how to complete the project on their own. This year Sophia sewed a shawl for me and Alexander made me a wooden box and then woodburned "mom" and hearts on it. Aren't they beautiful? (the gifts and the kids?)

My mother in law Sheryl surprised me with a package in the mail yesterday. She made me a new apron. The last one she made for me was when I was still teaching 5th grade. I used it when my class did cooking and I am still using it some 15 years later in my own kitchen. I am so excited. Now I can actually clean the other one.

My gift from Steve is sitting on the table to open tonight. I am being good and not opening it even though the box says, "Eddie Bauer".

Thanks also to Mom for the wonderful book. I have started reading it and love it! You always know what I will like.

Thanks to Steve, Mom, Dad, my siblings (Mike, Sherry, Danny, Robyn and Stacey), Alexander and Sophia, my friends and all my other family for being a part of my wonderful 41 years on this earth. You have all added so much to my life!

Thursday, October 9, 2008

The Simplest Things in Life, Weekly Edition

"I find relaxation, enjoyment, and healing in the simplest things in life. "
Louise Hay's Daily Affirmation

~Sophia's first published book arrived today. She said, "I can't believe it. It looks just like a real book." She had a great time writing it.

~After recovering from my "What I am thinking?" moment about my natural hair color, I ran into a gal I haven't seen in a while. I explained how I was letting my natural color return - grays and all! She said, "Oh yeah, I pluck all grays out of my hair." I said, "Well, I would probably be bald." She responded with, "I would rather be bald than gray."

~We heard about a free wood carving class this week. Alexander has always wanted to do this but we haven't found any classes for his age. I talked to the guy doing the class and he sounds great! It is basically a group of older guys that provide all the supplies and the class FREE of charge because they enjoy it. He was so proud of the boys who have been coming and said, "You should see the work they do." I love people that appreciate kids!

~We are preparing for a Life Learner Fair with our unschooling group. Sophia and I have been reading about Kit, one of American Girls historical dolls. So, she is sharing things on The Depression. I mentioned that she didn't have anything on the economy. She said, "I am only doing 'cool' things about The Depression." (Eleanor Roosevelt, The Dust Bowl, Toys on Loan, Strikes, Canning Dandelions, etc)

~Alexander now only weighs ten pounds less than me! (Five on a good day) He is very excited about growing up and loves being taller than his momma. It is weird to all the sudden look up to your son. Oh well, he is one person in this world I do look up to.

~My naturopath set me up with a homeschooling mom who also has rheumatoid arthritis. In my four and a half years with an RA diagnosis, I have never actually met another person with RA. It was great to sit at the coffee shop and share stories. Although my family and friends do their best to understand the physical, emotional and mental stress of this disease, it was a relief to talk to someone that immediately knew what I was going to say. She is a wonderful person with a great support system. I am looking forward to our next visit.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

What Am I Thinking?

This is how I felt yesterday:Why is it that one day you can feel completely beautiful and sure of your decision to go back to your natural hair color and then you see a photo of yourself and all of that changes?

Steve wonderfully responded to my insecurities with, "I think you look good! I think you look pretty and healthy. Your hair looks good to me. I am not sure what you are seeing that looks bad."

I also read this beautiful poem that brought tears to my eyes but again makes me feel strong in my decision to be "the real me behind meds and hair coloring".

by Sharon R. Poet

I stood in the line where every body goes,
To fix the aging form of skin, hair or nose.
But strong as stone,
I stood as I studied my reflection,
And found these words,
I felt, in my body’s deep rejection,
“Each crevice built for tears - these wrinkles on my face,
Are proof of precious years that NOTHING can erase.
In the grey of my fine hair, I sometimes see a glow.
Please handle it with care and let the magic show.
The sparkle in my eyes grows brighter every day.
Please don’t cover it up. Don’t take that away.
Every blemish, bump or sag, in the eyes of the weak,
May make me a hag.
But HEAR these words I speak.
I want to remain human - the Truest kind of all.
Don’t stretch, tweak or fix me. I don’t want to be a doll.
I may not fit in, because of how I feel.
But I don’t want to change.
So, let me just be REAL.”

Monday, October 6, 2008

A Day In Chicago

Yesterday morning I had an appointment with my naturopath, Judy. Her office is smack downtown Chicago so Sophia and I woke up early, took the Metra in, rode the water taxi to Michigan Ave. and then walked the rest of the route to Judy's office - all by 9:30am.

My original excitement about the day was in seeing Judy. She motivates me and gives me the strength to continue on this gluten & dairy free path to health. Also, the little girl inside me wanted Judy to say, "I am so proud of you." She didn't disappoint me.

However, my true excitement ended up being the time I spent with Sophia. I know all mothers love their children, but I honestly just really like Sophia and enjoy spending time with her over just about anyone else.

Sophia has something very special about her. She loves life and makes it addictive. She loves to smile at strangers because they will smile back and feel happy, she notices people's facial expressions and voices, she is thrilled by the wind blowing in her face and her smile makes me want to endlessly watch her.

After my appointment we checked out the new location of The American Girl Place and have decided in the near future we are going to make another trip downtown and bring her American Girl doll Kirsten, so we can eat at the AG restaurant, which we have never done. I am looking forward to that day as much as I do everyday with my pretty little girl.

Friday, October 3, 2008

The Simplest Things In Life, Weekly Edition

I find relaxation, enjoyment, and healing in the simplest things in life.

~I have not been able to wear my wedding ring since February when I went off medication. However, last night it slipped right on!!

~I was able to run and play with two little guys on Wednesday at playgroup. It felt so good I wanted to holler at everyone, "Look at me, I am running!"

~I got a haircut.

~Sophia received three bagfuls of clothes from a neighbor. She held up a Ralph Lauren shirt and said,"Oh, it just has a flag on it." I love that she isn't into name brands but instead dresses in a style that is all her own.

~Alexander saved enough of his own money to buy a XBOX 360 and game. He is a much better saver than me.

~Thursday night at work was great. I did little talking and let my students work in groups for most of the evening. They learn so much from each other.

Enjoy the simple things in your life this week!

Thursday, October 2, 2008

New Experiences for the Kids

With each change my family has made away from a mainstream lifestyle, we have been pleasantly surprised by how many people that don't always understand our philosophies, have been more than willing to support us.

Early in the summer, Alexander was hired for a five day pet sitting job which turned into a weekly mother's helper job and now into delivering fliers for the family's home business.

What I appreciated about this opportunity for Alexander is the mother put it in his hands. She gave him all the information and allowed him the freedom to share it with me in his own time and way. Of course he was more than excited for this job. Besides confirming everything with the mother, I have been very hands off because I know that one of Alexander's many talents is planning.

As soon as he had the green light on doing the job, he began making plans of how he could do a Google Map of our neighborhood and the three others he will be delivering to. He decided to enlist Sophia's help at 1/3 of the price he will be receiving. He rationalized that he will be doing the planning, organizing and communicating with the mother, so he deserved the most pay. Sophia was more than happy with this arrangement. She has always thought it would be cool to deliver fliers to mailboxes and she wasn't about to miss out on this opportunity.

This morning they started out. Alexander set his watch timer as he headed out the door with a map, highlighter, pen, bag with fliers, cell phone and of course, pride and camaraderie!

To me, this is unschooling in action. Letting a child take on responsibilities and interests of their own and create out of it what works best for them. My job? To help guide them when and if they need it! Really, that is the tricky part of all of this - letting them take charge without interfering. However, it is so rewarding to see what your children can do when given the opportunity.